How to Get a Business License in Your State

How to Get a Business License in Your State

How to Get a Business License in Your State

When starting a business, one of the immediate tasks business owners need to take care of is getting any required business licenses. Those may include general business licenses, local business licenses and professional or occipital licenses. Failing to follow business licensing requirements can result in fines or even get your business shut down. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is A State Business License

If you’re starting a business or nonprofit, you may be wondering what a state business license is. A state business license is a government-issued document that provides proof that your new business is legally allowed to operate in a specific state. This can include an operating license or it could be a seller’s license that allows you to sell specific products in that state. 

Some states require business licenses at the state level, but oftentimes entrepreneurs can obtain business licensing at the city or local level as well. Requirements vary depending on where your business is located as well as the types of business activities you’re engaged in.

Do You Need A Business License in Your State?

If you have an existing business, it’s important to find out if your business structure will require a business license and go through the process of filling out business license applications. 

Every state (as well as some counties and cities) require you to have at least one type of business license if you plan to conduct business there.

Typically, filing for the required business licenses comes after you decide on your business name, business entity, and whether it will operate as a sole proprietor, a partnership, a limited liability company, or a corporation.

Running a business out of your home will likely require at least one basic business permit or license, such as a sales tax permit. If you’re opening a local business such as a restaurant or daycare, you’ll need more licenses to comply with that industry’s regulations. If you are renting commercial real estate, you may need a zoning permit that ensures that what you want to do with the space is consistent with what the space was zoned for.

It’s important that you understand what licenses you are required to carry so that your business is not subject to any penalties with the IRS.

How to Get A Business License

Getting a business license in your state can be a smooth do-it-yourself process. An employer identification number (EIN) is often needed before you can apply for a business license and is a simple process to obtain in every state. This is similar to having a social security number, but for your business and is also free to get.

You will also need to provide basics like your business location and contact information. Applications are often readily available to file online or you will need to print out your application and bring necessary documentation to your local government business license department.

How Much Does A Business License Cost?

The cost of obtaining a business license can vary depending on industry, state and/or city, and whether is product-based, in-home, or utilizing a building to do business out of. It’s important to check with your local area and identify how many business licenses your business type will need. Costs will range from as low as $20 to as high as a couple hundred dollars. 

Resources for Business Licensing in Each State

Below you’ll find a list of resources for each state. In addition, your state’s Secretary of State website provides necessary information on what state business licenses you need.

StateResourceWhat the Resource Offers
AlabamaAtlas AlabamaGives a comprehensive reference guide that breaks down licensing by your business’ industry.
AlaskaAlaska Commerce Department: LicensingProvides a searchable business license database as well as instructions for applying, either online or via mail.
ArizonaAZcommerce.comOffers quick links to licensing offices at the state, county, and city level.
ArkansasCity ApplicationsArkansas breaks down licensing based on the city versus the whole state.
CaliforniaCalifornia.govThis site has all pertinent information and takes you directly to the portal to get started on obtaining a business license.
ColoradoColorado Business ChecklistThis site will help you understand what you will need at the federal, state, and local level. 
ConnecticutCT’s Business Response CenterSearch by keyword, agency, or trade to get links for info on permits/licenses you will need.
DelawareDelaware One Stop Business Registration & LicensingThis is a one-stop business registration and licensing website—100% online.
FloridaFlorida Department of Business and Professional RegulationThis allows you to see permit/license requirements for a limited number of professions. Some business categories have an online application process.
GeorgiaGeorgia Start a Small BusinessThe Georgia Secretary of State has limited resources to help you determine what licenses you need. The site can be confusing, as it bats you from one site to another.
Hawai’iCounty of Hawai’i
According to the site, all licenses have a term of one year, except for Purchasing, Wrecking and Rebuilding Cars licenses.
IdahoBusiness.Idaho.GovOffers the full list of where to go to get your business license based on industry.
IllinoisIllinois.gov: Registration, Licenses, & PermitsThere are specific links that direct you to city-level websites with more specific permit/license information.
IndianaIn.BizOn the right side of the site, click “Specific Licensing & Permitting Issues”.
IowaIowa Source LinkGives you a search engine of license information with links to department contact information.
KansasKS BizOffers a directory of who to call based on your industry and city and county sites.
KentuckyKentucky One-Stop Business PortalIncludes links for more information on various types of permits and licenses.
LouisianaGeauxBizRegister an account for your business to create a checklist of actions to take, including licenses required.
MaineMaine.gov: Business LicensingIncludes links to some common licenses, as well as a link to the local government portal for local licenses, and a link to business resources by profession.
MarylandMaryland OneStopShows a list of what permits/licenses you will need, fees, processing times, and what department requires the permit.
MassachusettsMass.gov: Professional Licenses & PermitsIn-depth details on licenses needed by profession, as well as steps required and online application process.
MichiganMichigan State License SearchAlphabetical list of professions and information on licenses under each.
MinnesotaLicense MinnesotaBrowse for license by topic or agency, or use the A to Z list.
MississippiMississippi Boss One Stop ShopThis MS government website provides information about starting a business in the state.
MissouriMissouri Division of Professional RegistrationHouses all information on business licensing in the state of Missouri.
MontanaSmall Business Development Center Network (Montana)Shows all options for licensing by business category.
NebraskaNebraska.gov: Business LicensingProvides links for certain types of licenses.
NevadaNevada Secretary of StateHas the option to apply for a state business license.
New HampshireNew Hampshire Business One StopIncludes links for more information on various types of permits and licenses.
New JerseyNew Jersey Business PortalIncludes links for more information on various types of permits and licenses.
New MexicoNew Mexico Regulation & Licensing DepartmentDetailed information and FAQs on various types of permits and licenses.
New YorkNew York State: Business WizardNew York’s Business Wizard gives you a custom checklist of business requirements in your area.
North CarolinaNorth Carolina (Secretary of State)Gives direct access to the contact for applying for licensure.
North DakotaState of North Dakota New Business RegistrationOffers full clickable lists of where to apply based on your industry.
OhioOhio.gov: Starting a BusinessContact your county or local government to find out licensure for your type of business.
OklahomaOklahoma Dept of Commerce: Business Licensing & Operating RequirementsIncludes high-level overview of each profession’s requirements as well as links for more information.
OregonLicenseInfo.Oregon.govThis site allows you to search by keyword for licenses you seek, search popular licenses.
PennsylvaniaPA Biz OnlineThis is a one-stop business registration and service licensing website—100% online.
Rhode IslandRhode Island Dept of Business RegulationRhode Island has a simple online licensing process.
South CarolinaLabor Licensing RegulationApplying for a license is as simple as just clicking your industry.
South DakotaSouth Dakota Department of RevenueHere, apply for your business tax license for specific industries.
TennesseeTennessee Department of RevenueOffers information on who is required to have a business license in Tennessee.
TexasTexas Business Licenses and Permits GuideDetailed PDF with information and links for every type of business license.
UtahUtah Dept of Commerce: Division of Occupational and Professional LicensingApply for a license based on license type. It offers a list.
VermontVermont Department of TaxesWhile Vermont does not require a state business license, you will need a business sales tax account, which you can apply for on this page.
VirginiaVirginia State Government SiteThe site divides the list based on business licenses in the state.
WashingtonWashington DOL: Business & Professional LicensesDetailed information on each type of license required in Washington state.
West VirginiaWest Virginia One Stop Business PortalDetails on each business license required by the state of West Virginia, as well as information at the city level.
WisconsinWisconsin Dept. of Safety and Professional Services: License/Permit/RegistrationThis website offers professional licensing information based on industry.
WyomingWyoming Business CouncilFor most businesses in Wyoming, a business license is not required.

Business Formation Services That Can Help

Here’s a list of business formation services that can help:

  • Your local SBDC or town/city clerk: If you ask a SCORE mentor, they will likely tell you that this is the best place to start, and in many cases this is true. Many of the licenses/permits you may need to start your business are city-level permits. Your city clerk should have a full list of licenses you will need, and this is the best way to make sure you have covered all your bases.
  • CityApplications.com: City Applications has contact info at the city-level for business licenses and permitting information. 
  • SBA.gov: The Small Business Administration has information on permits for federal licenses in different industries, but little on state licensing.
  • SBA.com: Not to be confused with the Small Business Administration, Small Business Advice has information on starting and running a business, including business permitting and licensing specifics by state. Some states have more detailed information than others. This is not an official government website.

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